"I want to be here. I want to play for the Red Sox and I don't want to play for anybody else...we're going to have an opportunity to win every single year. The fans are the best, the city embraces their team. So why not? It fits."- Dustin Pedroia, #15
So, like I said already, Pedroia is easily my favorite player. Ever. I'm not sure how to explain the depth of my admiration, so I'll start with a little anecdote. My friend Rosa and I went to Game 5 of the ALCS [I know...!]. We got there before the gates opened, and when they did, we went to stake out a space near the field to shamelessly beg for player's autographs. We got the perfect spot: not only were we standing right next to the dugout, but there was a cute little boy in a Sox jersey next to us who was adept at getting players to sign. He regaled us with tales of autographs he had gotten - and told us he had over 200! At least one from every current Sox player. That kid was a professional. Anyway, every time a player would walk toward the dugout, the kid would shout "Mr. Ellsbury [or whoever], will you please sign!?" Finally, Dustin Pedroia walked toward us. The kid didn't let us down; he shouted long and loud, and Pedroia looked over at us, smiled, and said he'd sign when he came back. He didn't get back out until after the ushers sent us to our right field seats, but the possibility of getting Pedroia's autograph, coupled with my proximity to him [about eight feet], made me literally shake with excitement.
I knew it would be a good day after that, and it was epic! Everyone knows what happened that night, so I'll spare you the recap. You also know about Pedroia's off season haul: Gold Glove, Silver Slugger, and American MVP, added to his Rookie of the Year Award and World Series ring from 2007. However, more than any award he's recieved [are there any he didn't win?], the thing I love most about Pedroia's off season is his six year, $40.5 million dollar contract with the Sox. As a fan of the team, and baseball in general, you have to love the comments he made at the press conference announcing the deal [above]. It's rare to hear a player so succinctly articulate the feelings of the fan base, but Pedroia succeeded, as he has most of his career.
We all know that our second baseman has a bit of an attitude: something that in a bigger man would be obnoxious, but in Pedroia comes off as delightfully scrappy. Pedroia has gone on record as saying that he should be allowed to be measured in his spikes, on concrete. Sorry, Dustin, but that still wouldn't get you to your listed 5'9". He has also been known to return to the dugout after a home run [he hit 17 in 2008] and shout something like "Ninety-eight coming in, a hundred ninety-eight going out!" He makes such cracks often and indiscriminately, flexing his biceps and exclaiming "Strongest 160 pound man in the league!" Looking at him, with the sun shining off his prematurely balding head, you just have to laugh.
To these endearing qualities you add the fact that the man can play. His numbers and accolades speak for themselves: he only sat out five games all season, and hit .326, slugged .493, and had a .376 OBP. His defense is electrifying - if his uniform isn't dirty by the fifth inning, it's an off day. What more is there to say? Watching Pedroia play baseball is a wonderful experience. He's an entertainment for the young fans, and plays the game the right way, which pleases the old hard-liners.
Hands down, one of the best things about #15 is the fact that he expects to win. Every day. It doesn't matter to him that winning 162 games is, for all intents and purposes, impossible. He expects to go 4-for-4 every day, unless he goes 5-for-5. I remember one game in which he hit a homer, a triple, a double, and then hit another double. Afterwards, someone jokingly asked him why he hadn't tripped and stayed at first, so he would have hit for the cycle. He looked at them, perplexed, and deadpanned, "Why would I want to do that?" He often reiterates that he doesn't care for personal statistics, as long as the team is winning, going on record as preferring a trip to the World Series over every award in baseball. Now, that is a player.
I fully expect Pedroia to continue his self-described "laser shows" in the 2009 season, and beyond. Maybe this year he'll even beat Terry Francona at cribbage... but probably not. After all, Pedroia's been an underdog for most of his life; we don't want to take away the last thing he's terrible at.
I think this is hilarious, and pretty much sums up Pedroia - he knows better than to take himself seriously, except on the diamond.
Oh, and in case you were wondering, Pedroia was actually my inspiration for the name of this blog. He knows [deep, deep, inside] that he can't hit a homerun every at-bat, so he contents himself with drilling balls Off the Monster.